Women's competition, Osaka
From 2 June To 6 June 2004

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Swiss Pair Seek First Against Aussies
OSAKA, JAPAN, June 5, 2004 - Nicole Schnyder-Benoit and Simone Kuhn will try for a "first" here Saturday when the Olympic-qualified team from Switzerland plays for a spot in Sunday's semi-finals of the US$180,000 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event on Tannowa Beach.

Although losing all three of their matches to Natalie Cook and Nicole Sanderson, the last two meetings between the two teams have been close, including the last confrontations in the quarterfinals of the FIVB World Championships last October in Rio de Janeiro. Both tandems won their opening winner's bracket matches Saturday to set up the afternoon match.

"We have had our opportunities to beat the Australians in our last two matches," said Kuhn. "We have not played them this season due to Natalie's shoulder problems. We are glad that we finally won a third-round match in the winner's bracket to eliminate playing an extra two matches in the loser's bracket."

The first of the three matches between the two teams was last season on the Tannowa Beach courts where Cook and Sanderson prevailed (21-19 and 21-11). The next two matches last season were three-setters in China and Brazil with the Aussies winning 18-16 and 15-13, respectively.

Seeded third in the 32-team Main Draw in the double-elimination event, Schnyder-Benoit and Kuhn defeated sixth-seeded Suzanne Lahme and Danja Musch of Germany 21-19 and 21-16 to advance to the finals of the winner's bracket for the first-time this season after losing a similar match in Brazil, Greece and China.

"We are gaining our rhythm and playing with a lot of confidence right now," said Schnyder-Benoit about her team, which has improved its Olympic qualifying ranking with a guaranteed fifth-place finish this week. "The Aussies are very talented and Natalie has learned how to play with her shoulder problems. She is a smart player and Nicole is one of the most improved players on the tour."

Cook, the Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medallists with Kerri Pottharst, and Sanderson survived an "early scare" from 10th-seeded Mika Teru Saiki and Satoko Urata to score a 21-14 and 21-16 win over the Japanese tandem. Teru Saiki and Urata built a 6-1 lead in the first set before Sanderson's net play and Cook's experience took over the match.

The first semi-final qualifying match Saturday will have top-seeded Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar of Brazil playing 21st-seeded Vasso Karadassiou and Efi Sfyri of Greece. Five-time winners of international events on Tannowa Beach, Shelda and Behar defeated 24th-seeded Ji Linjun and Zhang Xi of China 21-11 and 21-17 while the Greeks out-lasted 29th-seeded Nila Ann Hakedal and Ingrid Torlen of Norway 21-16, 18-21 and 15-9.